back to article Britain's rail ticket-booking systems go TITSUP*

Train companies across the UK are unable to take online ticket bookings due to what has been described as a "national issue" with the country's reservation service. The outage – which appears to have affected all UK train operating companies (TOCs) today – means that users can't book tickets on websites or on mobile apps. The …

  1. Locky Silver badge

    Not all areas

    I note that Southern Rail passengers have yet to notice a change to their normal level of service

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Not all areas

      "I note that Southern Rail passengers have yet to notice a change to their normal level of service"

      Fuck Southern Rail.

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Southern Rail passengers have yet to notice a change to their normal level of service

      You will have to wait longer for your statutory refunds to come through.

  2. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Almost disappointed that didn't squeeze an "Off the rails" pun in...

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Maybe they were trying to keep the story on track.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Maybe they should give us some kind of signal that it wasn't intentional

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Coat

          I'm wondering if their leased line is down...

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Coat

            Maybe the server has gone to sleeper mode.

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
              Coat

              These jokes are running out of steam now.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The Down Line is working. It's the Relief Up Line that's out of service.

            1. Allonymous Coward
              IT Angle

              Sounds like they had a carriage of data failure in a server.

              Perhaps they need to install a replacement bus?

    2. Commswonk Silver badge
      Coat

      @ Korev: Almost disappointed that didn't squeeze an "Off the rails" pun in...

      What would have been the point(s)?

      Anyway it's the ticketing platform that is at fault.

      Er, sorry...

    3. Steve K Silver badge

      Well..

      Would have been chuffed if you did

      1. m0rt Silver badge

        Re: Well..

        maybe there is a basic training issue? If you don't invest then your product will be stationary.

        1. Z80

          Re: Well..

          Sounds like the TOCs weren't the bogie man this time.

          I wonder if it was some sort of buffer overrun?

  3. James 51 Silver badge
    Joke

    Should have used a blockchain.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Blocktrain?

  4. Joe Gurman

    Hollie?

    Wasn't he/she the shipboard computer avatar in Red Dwarf? That should have been a tip off, right there.

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    There's a feature that I quite like in Veeam (bear with me!)

    When you're copying your VM's over from one place to another, or backing them up, or whatever, it tells you where the bottleneck is.

    Source, Processing, Network, Target, etc. You know what's holding up the line.

    Cloudflare do something similar, with a checklist of "Well, we're up, but the site you're trying to access is down" icons. It's about time, we all follow such lead and have the systems automatically lay blame.

    "Please try again later" isn't acceptable. "Sorry, the national ticket-booking service is down", or "Sorry, this station isn't able to connect to the Internet to check that information", or "Sorry, information about Virgin trains isn't currently available from their systems."

    Short, easy, subtle, but at least lay the blame where it needs to be laid rather than "Error". And it's literally the case of changing the output of a few exception catchers / error paths into something friendly.

    However, Veeam caught me out the other day through exactly this problem. "Could not process the VM". Apparently that means "You need to take a Full before you can take an Incremental, pillock" but fails to tell you that and instead gives you something that's both heart-wrenchingly worrying, and almost impossible to narrow down without working blind.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Sensible error handling is so last century. It is much better to not do any error checking and to throw exceptions for relatively expected events and to then process these in the usually unhelpful "an error may have happened" kind of response.

      Muppets. While there are near religious flame wars about error handling vs exception handling, they both have their place. Error handling is for the expected failures, exception handling is for the unexpected ones - use both to their advantage in other words.

      1. DoctorPaul

        British Gas web site used to raise my blood pressure -

        "Oops, something went wrong - but we're not going to tell you what"

      2. swm

        I learned when I was writing an operating system 50 years ago that there are no errors, exceptions etc. Everything is expected including disk errors, power failing in 60 usec, etc. You have to deal with everything and never throw anything over the fence.

    2. getHandle

      As bad as the trains themselves

      "Sorry but we're being held at a red signal" - well we're not at a station so no shit sherlock! Do trains stop for any other reason??

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: As bad as the trains themselves

        "Do trains stop for any other reason??"

        Yes. Trains can stop for any reason they like, or for no reason at all; and frequently do.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: As bad as the trains themselves

          Don't forget that this is the time of the year when actually getting trains to stop is sometimes problematical but to leaves on the line.

          Rocks and a hard place perhaps?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As bad as the trains themselves

        >> Do trains stop for any other reason??

        They do if the signalman at Wokingham sets the points wrong and an electric SWR train that's meant to go to Waterloo instead goes onto the Guildford line, which has no third rail.

        The trains behind then get held for 3.5 hours until they can figure a way of getting the unpowered train back where it belongs.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: As bad as the trains themselves

          That's a strangely-specific example, RichardT. What made you think of that?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: As bad as the trains themselves

            >> That's a strangely-specific example, RichardT. What made you think of that?

            I was stuck in one of the trains behind it.

            It was on a Sunday afternoon. We reversed back to Winnersh station and waited. The train crew strongly advised us to catch one of the next trains back to Reading. However, it also happened to be the last day of the Reading festival and they were already putting out loads of barriers at Reading station when we left earlier, so I didn't fancy getting mixed up in that.

            After a few hours the guard managed to get some taxis to come from Maidenhead but, just as they arrived, the line was cleared and we could proceed. A lot of the people on my train were going to Gatwick and probably missed their flights.

            1. Bottle_Cap

              Re: As bad as the trains themselves

              Consider yourself lucky! I have to use the line to Guildford everyday! If it's on time it's a calendar entry!

      3. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: As bad as the trains themselves

        > Do trains stop for any other reason??

        The wrong sort of snow and the wrong sort of leaves spring to mind as two, all too unnecessary causes of stopped trains.

      4. Rob Daglish

        Re: As bad as the trains themselves

        Errr- the train could be broken down? I've had that one before. Instead of going rev,rev,rev,rev,grrr and setting off like a scalded cat it went rev,rev,rev,rev BANG! and stopped just before a green signal.

    3. steviebuk Silver badge

      Error handling and messages have been an issue for years and still no change. You can see Mark Russinovich point this out and poke fun in all his Case of the unexplained talks.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Facepalm

        That's true. I got this one last week courtesy of WPF:

        'Cannot attach type "TextBoxEnterKeyUpdateBehaviour" to type "TextEdit". Instances of type "TextBoxEnterKeyUpdateBehaviour" can only be attached to objects of type "TextEdit"'

        Of course it being WPF meant that when I eventually tracked it down it was only tangentially related to the XAML line where the error was being reported.

  6. Nick Ryan Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Meh. It's been impossible to buy a season ticket from Chiltern Railways for the last two weeks due to configuration and deployment issues. Because the incompetent web managers can't grasp that in-house staff accessing the same system may, in fact, be accessing a different system (internal vs external DNS) they have been carefully denying the problem. Only little gems like "pick a station from the list" followed by "station not recognised" and wonders of "modern development" like that and different station lists appearing depending on whether or not the user is in-house or not.

    This is on top of the standard issues with idiot web developers attempting to replicate standard browser functionality using JavaScript.

  7. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    The liability is delayed.

    Since the only reason any of these contracts get award is the ridiculous cost of pitch and the liability cover, as opposed to any sort of competence other than shovelling money and entertainment. Surely it’s time to claim a refund. That goes for the hardware failure as well, be it the pointy wirey things or the borrowed worn out machinery.

    For the record, selling off the property, for less than the annual rent, to your soon to be partners, is a fucking national scandal. #hydrogengoesbang

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    What's Trainline doing stuck in there...

    ... when train operating company backends can just as easily point to the National Reservation Service which does exactly the same as Trainline does without their cut?

    Icon is burning money...

  9. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    "Vulture's efforts to procure tickets to Birmingham online....all failed"

    Yes, but we are talking about traveling to Birmingham here, so perhaps these offline systems are doing you a favor :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Vulture's efforts to procure tickets to Birmingham online....all failed"

      Isn't the National Model Railway exhibition there in a few weeks.

      Just sayin' like.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NEC Events

        And "Motorcycle Live". The stupid Cross Country electronic ticket system didn't work last year so I'm biking it up to the NEC.

  10. 0laf Silver badge
    Coat

    Leaves on the app?

  11. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

    "Stop using cash. We have all these wonderful electronic systems for your comfort and convenience"

    Okay so I'm paraphrasing a bit, but my local stations are all trying to phase out cash transactions as quickly as they can and force everyone to use electronic payment systems.

    Most of my travel is on one network but my 'home' station is on another; as a result, I can't use any sort of discounts or their equivalent to the Oyster card because ONE station is part of "the Opposition"s network unless I buy at my DESTINATION station. I've tried paying on the train but apparently the remote terminals can't cope with anything except tickets at full price, so I have to hope the ticket office is open in the evening and that the queue isn't so long I miss the train home and have to wait nearly an hour for the next...

    Add to that the fact that my rail ticket is approaching the cost of the petrol to drive in for the week (it started off at about 20% of the cost!) and the rail company is looking increasingly likely to lose my business...

  12. Mike Richards Silver badge

    TITSUP

    Total Inability To Supply Usurious Prices.

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